Usually I don't post much on the NBA on here since this is a Michigan blog, but when there's a major development such as Juwan Howard winning an NBA Championship or Michigan's involvement in the NBA Draft, I will post on the NBA. None of the events in regards to former Michigan players in the NBA have been major events recently, but since there has been a few of them and it is the offseason, I figured I would post on them.
I'll start with the bad news first. The bad news is that former Michigan guard Manny Harris has been released from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Harris had a brilliant career at Michigan. In his freshman season, he made the 2nd All-Big Ten team and the All-Big Ten freshman team. He then led Michigan to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in over ten years in 2009, while also earning 1st team All-Big Ten honors from both the coaches and the media. His junior year and final year at Michigan wasn't as spectacular, but he still earned 3rd team All-Big Ten honors.
Harris was predicted by many to be drafted after coming out of college a year early, but unfortunately, he went undrafted in the 2010 NBA Draft. Many cite a late injury as a potential reason for his drop, but he was soon picked up by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He had a pretty good 2010-2011 season, starting 15 games, but he was inconsistent and faded in the 2011-2012 season. He was bumped down to the NBA Development League (sort of like minor league baseball) for a bit, but never seemed to get the hang of things.
Following this season, the Cavaliers waived Harris. This is definitely discouraging for a former 4* recruit, the Mr. Basketball of Michigan, and a former 1st team All-Big Ten player, but definitely not too surprising. Some players transition well to the NBA, others don't and Harris appears to be one of the latter. Do I think he can recover? Absolutely. I wouldn't be surprised one bit if he was signed by another team at the end of summer. Along with this, he might find a team where he fits better and where he can really revitalize his career, but until that happens, this definitely isn't a good sign for Harris and Michigan. Harris no longer wears the Maize and Blue on the court, but having players that are performing in the NBA does help the program and if Harris continues this route, that would be one less player making Michigan look good at the next level.
But now on to more exciting news. The Lakers have resigned former Michigan player Darius Morris. Morris, like Harris, had a great career at Michigan. He was only in Ann Arbor for two seasons and one NCAA Tournament run, but still achieved a lot. He did average over 24 minutes in his freshman season, but he was stuck on a weak team that didn't accomplish much. In his sophomore year, he was named to the 3rd team All-Big Ten, was Big Ten Player of the Week two times, recorded a triple-double, and led Michigan to a sweep over rival MSU and back to the NCAA Tournament after a one year drought.
Morris was selected 41st overall in the 2011 NBA Draft and joined the Los Angeles Lakers with a lot of excitement. He's from LA so he was automatically a great fit. He played little in his first year in the NBA and was actually moved down to the D-League for a bit before returning and really improving near the end of the year when he was bumped into the backup point-guard position. When the Lakers announced they were re-signing him, it was great news because there was some concern he was going down the same path as Manny Harris. Having a player like Morris in the NBA developing is great news for Michigan.
No matter what these players do now it's really not going to change Beilein and Michigan's approach to basketball, but it is interesting to follow these guys in the NBA. Hopefully Harris will figure out a place that works well for him and Morris will continue to improve because this could really help in the process of rebuilding the name of Michigan basketball. Former Michigan basketball players in the NBA won't build the legacy of the program along, but it definitely can't hurt things.